Sea Shepherd’s flagship, the SSS Steve Irwin. Photo: Sea Shepherd

The notorious Sea Shepherd Conservation Society kicked off its 2012-2013 anti-whaling campaign this week as the society’s flagship SSS Steve Irwin-as in Sea Shepherd Ship (SSS)-sailed out of Williamstown, Australia to start its “Operation Zero Tolerance” campaign and face off with the Japanese up North.

Now in its 9th season, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society promises that Operation Zero Tolerance will be society’s best campaign yet with a strong arsenal that includes a secret new vessel, new celebrities, and even an international crime drama thrown in the mix.

“The plan is for our fleet to meet the whaling fleet in the North Pacific off Japan,” said Peter Hammarstedt, who commands Sea Shepherd’s SSS Bob Barker, one of four ships in the SS fleet. “We are planning to take the battle pretty much up to Japan itself.”

Sounds exciting. Hammarstedt continues setting the stage with a teaser for the Sea Shepherd’s secret new ship, the Sam:

“We are keeping the location and identity of our new vessel, the SSS Sam Simon, a secret in the hope that the first time the whalers see the Sam, is when she comes into view on the slipway of the factory processing ship, the Nisshin Maru, effectively shutting down their illegal whaling operations,” Hammarstedt added.

Pamela Anderson on the SSS Brigitte Bardot
Photo: Sea Shepherd

The last ship in SS fleet is the SSS Brigitte Bardot, a “fast scout vessel” currently docked in Marina del Rey, California on its maiden voyage to the U.S. mainland.  The SSS Brigitte Bardot’s official send-off featured a guest visit from celebrity animal rights activist and actress, Pamela Anderson, who donned a Sea Shepherd wetsuit, rode a jet ski, and hugged an activist dressed as a shark during the launch ceremony.

Noticeably absent from the group is “Captain” Paul Watson who has been in hiding since July after forfeiting bail in Germany where he faced possible extradition to Costa Rica on several charges stemming from an altercation with poachers and the Guatemalan Navy during an anti-shark finning campaign.

Despite his international status, however, Hammarstedt assured that Watson would show once the cameras start rolling the campaign begins.

“It is expected Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson will appear in command of one of the vessels when the action begins,” he added.

But no matter what happens with Watson, Sea Shepherd promises that this season will be the best one yet.

“This is our strongest fleet to date, with four ships and more than 100 international crew representing 23 nations to defend the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” said Sea Shepherd’s Australian Director, Jeff Hansen. “Operation Zero Tolerance will be Sea Shepherd’s best-equipped and most effective campaign to date.”

“We are going to try and intercept them as quickly as possible, and try to make this the first year they get zero kills,” Hansen added.

Stay tuned…

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